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Craig High School graduate motivated by sports
JANESVILLE — If you ask Craig High School graduate Aristide Serrano what motivates him, he'll tell you it's the others who look up to him as a role model.
"Those are the things that kept me out of trouble," Serrano said. "Sports have played a huge role my whole life. I found brothers, I found family."
Serrano, who plays football, wrestles and runs track, said sports have taught him how to carry himself and manage his time and priorities.
"I learned how to have more respect for myself by becoming a leader, a captain," Serrano said. "You realize you have more people that look up to you than you think. You have more people looking at you than you think.
"I call everybody on the wrestling team my little brothers because they all look up to me," he said. "When I step on the mat, I want to win. I don't want to lose in front of them. If I bust my butt and work, they are looking at me and will work hard and bust their butt without me having to say anything."
Serrano had to learn as a child how to be a man, he said, because life at home was often difficult. When he was a sophomore, police raided his house twice for drugs. Each of his parents has served jail time, and he was almost separated from his two younger brothers and younger sister, he said.
His father went to jail for drugs and his mother for an altercation while attempting to kick his father out of their home, he said.
"Growing up in Janesville was kind of crazy," Serrano said. "Not the average growing up."
Serrano, who plans to attend UW-Oshkosh to earn a business degree, said he has worked hard in school and in sports to motivate his siblings to do better than what they've grown up with.
"My dad went to jail for drugs when I was in third grade," Serrano said. "Even though I was really young, I kind of knew I was man of house. I grew up real early; I knew what had to be done.
"Everything I try to do, I know I have somebody looking at me, so it keeps me on the right track and doing good stuff," he said. "I know I have my little brothers watching me."
Serrano said seeing friends and family struggle through drug addictions and making ends meet inspired him to want to go to college and want more out of his life.
"I've been surrounded by drugs for a while now," Serrano said. "Friends, family--I've seen that my whole life. You either go to jail or end up dead. Seeing people selling drugs, seeing people on drugs, I just knew that wasn't a life I wanted to live.
"I think everything is about making money," he said. "Where I come from and what I see every day is that people don't think about money for college. Everything is about getting the money right now for your family and putting clothes on your kids and having a shelter over your head. What's around me, people don't think about college. So what I wanted to do was to start surrounding myself with people who think about college."
Serrano said school has been difficult for him because he is the first in his family to take it seriously. He is hopeful that an education can change the cycle of issues within his family.
"Many of my friends have the same background," Serrano said. "We knew we always wanted to do better than our surroundings, so it could go for future generations from family to family. If I show my family the right way, then they'll do it right and nothing bad will be going on.
"Not everything has to be about gang affiliations or drugs or going to jail," he said. "There's a better life out there. I want to be the person my brothers could see that overcame all that stuff. If I was to fall into that category, and them looking up to me, they would fall into that same category. That leads you to nothing at the end."
Although school hasn't come easy to him, Serrano has always worked hard at it. He knew he needed to do well to play sports. Doing well in school now is all about the payoff in the end, he said.
"I always struggled with school," Serrano said. "I always liked it, but it was always hard for me to do really good in school because I never really had anyone to show me.
"Successful people always get taught by somebody," he said. "No successful person is ever just successful. They got taught, and they learned and took their lesson and made it a lifestyle."
Serrano said he understands but doesn't condone why some people go down the wrong path.
"You want everything at this moment," Serrano said. "You want the car, you want the shoes, you want the good-looking women. Everybody is attracted to that, but once you're in jail, everything is a downfall."
It's because he's seen this happen firsthand that he knows he wants something different, he said.
"The right path, you feel better about it," Serrano said. "You feel more proud of yourself. I feel proud of myself that I finished high school.
“I know it's going to be hard, but at the end, it'll be worth it."